Sunday, December 7, 2008


My wife and I just got done writing, printing folding, stuffing, posting and addressing about 60 holiday letters to various friends and family, some of them rather distant ('Janet? Ok, so if Arnie is my great-uncle, that's my grandfather's brother, Janet is the wife of one of his kids. Yeah they get a letter). I am continually amazed by my printer's (HP Photosmart C4280) ability to stop working reliably when I have a large task for it to perform. Sometimes it doesn't pick up paper, sometimes it doesn't print straight. Sometimes there's roller marks on it. But ONLY when I ask it to do something significant.

It's a good printer. I got it to replace my old Deskjet 932C which broke horribly when I asked it to do my wedding programs. Maybe it's just that I put odd paper into it at these times. Or maybe it's a conspiracy. I'm voting for conspiracy - after all printer ink is a conspiracy isn't it? (Although this printer's ink is actually cheaper than the last printer's) I just spent $75 in printer ink to prepare for this Christmas letter, and sure enough, it needed both cartridges changed.

What do you do to combat this evil? Buy in bulk? No dice, ecause then your printer will break and you'll have to get print cartridge #80 instead of print cartridge #75 (both manufactured by HP of course, why is there a whole WALL of different types of cartridges?). Then you'll be let with a lot of useless cartridges. Could you perhaps buy online to find a lower price? It's probably lower online, sure, but can you wait a week to get it? I usually buy ink when I run out and I need it for a big job, like today. So waiting isn't an option. Get a laser printer? Cost, and B&W only. Color laser printers are awfully expensive, and let's face it - you don't print that much at home. If you do, like you have a business, yeah, buy a laser printer and write it off. But for a home user? Naw, I rarely print until I print a lot. Then I spend a lot of money.

So what should I do? Nothing. HP and the other print companies have our number. They've planned this ink-debacle perfectly. And quite frankly I don't care. They've structured their whole business around the way I buy and use ink. So they made it expensive. Money isn't the only thing I have to optimize. The printer by and large works, and it has a scanner/copier in it! Score! I have simple needs. When I print large jobs I waste a bit of paper and have to buy new ink. It happens so infrequently that I honestly dont' care. I could more profitably care about beer. What if I'm out of beer? That matters more to me than ink, and HP knows it. They ought to include a coupon for a 24 pack of Miller with every ink cartridge. Hey, two birds with one stone.

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